Let’s be honest – neither of us have the authority to advise how anyone should manage their own mental health. We’re not mental health professionals – nor do we have all the answers. Everyone’s journey is unique. What works for one person may not work for another.

That said, there’s value to speaking from experience, especially where mental health is concerned because, let’s face it, people don’t talk about this enough. So while these tips and insights aren’t meant to be definitive solutions, they are reflections on what has made a difference in our own lives and, by sharing, we hope to make a positive contribution to the discussion as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2024.


5 learnings from Gemma


Look after your foundations.

It’s a fascinating quirk of modern life that remembering the necessities to staying alive are surprisingly difficult. Ask around any office and I’m sure you’ll find a bunch of intelligent, high-achieving people who are on a mission to drink more water, or who skipped a meal. There will be several more that keep meaning to commit to an exercise routine. And most likely there will be someone that didn’t sleep very well last night.

Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, let’s cover the basics first.

I’m sure that looking after my foundations will be a life-long conscious decision for me. At a time when I was reeling from events in my personal life and struggling with my mental health, I was advised to treat myself like someone in my care. What a radical thought. One that many of us could benefit from keeping in mind.

I became a pet parent to Hughie, my Westie (and regular four-legged visitor at GOLD79). While I find it difficult to prioritise myself, I easily prioritise caring for him. It provides a great model for putting the advice into practice. I think about how I can best look after myself, and I intend to never forget that lesson.

Our foundations make a massive physiological difference to our ability to cope with the demands that modern life throws at us. Letting them slip is, in my experience, one of the easiest signs to spot if things are out of balance.

So, have you drunk enough water today?

Reclaim your lunchbreak.

Make more time for movement. It’s this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and I’d encourage everyone to think about how they can take a moment to move more each day.

If the idea of the 5am club and a hardcore gym routine sounds gruelling, that’s OK, because it pays to sweat the small stuff. The lunchbreak is the perfect opportunity to incorporate a little movement into your working day. Stepping away from the laptop and taking a walk can help manage stress as well as improve focus, productivity and keep us feeling present.

Seeking to achieve a better balance in my work life and make improvements to support my mental health, I made a personal commitment to take a break each day. The days when it feels impossible are most often the days when you will get the most benefit. I feel so much better for making that decision.

Break the productivity cycle.

I have always pursued achievement. A tick, a star, a grade. A busy social calendar of events and commitments.  In our professional lives, achievement may look like targets being hit, great feedback and relationships, goals and growth.

In a world that inspires us to Just Do It, do more, do so in less time, it’s easy to forget the stuff you just did. When perfectionism and anxiety are part of the picture too, it can feel overwhelming. Like many people in our industry, I have experienced burnout and productivity dysmorphia, and as a mental health first aider I hope to help others who may be struggling.

Next time you go to your to do list, add ‘Create a ta da list’ and look forward to ticking it off. Reflecting on our successes and all the things you have accomplished, especially on the days when it feels like you didn’t get anything done, can paint a much more helpful picture for all the great things you’re achieving.

While you’re there, add ‘Give yourself a break’ and look forward to that too.

Hold your thoughts accountable.

Ever found yourself spiralling over the same thoughts over and over again? Yeah, me too. Anxiety and self-criticism can be deeply intrinsic in our psychology and changing the narrative can be difficult.

Many of the tools taught in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful for breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and reframing them. Next time you find yourself caught in a loop of negative thinking, experiment with putting your thoughts to the test. Write your thought down and adopt the role of judge and jury – is there any evidence to support your thought? Or are you making assumptions, thinking in ‘all or nothing’ terms, or ignoring evidence to the contrary? There are lots of ways in which our thoughts can be distorted, and it’s sometimes helpful to ask ‘what would a friend say to me about this’, if your inner voice isn’t being particularly supportive.

Be kind and be fair.

I believe there are a few pillars that need to be met to feel happy at work. One of them is having a reciprocal sense of value. We all deserve to feel valued. Everyone is doing their best and a great piece of advice I share with people taking on management responsibilities for the first time (and with those of us who have been leading teams for some time) is to look for ways people have achieved, rather than ways they have messed up, and celebrate them. When I think of the great people I have worked for in teams throughout my career, the ones I felt most motivated by were the ones who celebrated success.

In my own leadership style, I try to make sure people feel valued in their work. Easy when things are going well, and even more important when they’re not. Be kind and be fair, and look for the best in the people you’re working with.

Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on someone else’s mental wellbeing.

5 learnings from Steve


You vs the world only takes you so far.

Growing up as the eldest child in a home devoid of guidance and support, I always felt like a nuisance asking for help. I discovered early on that I had to work things out for myself – and that was a real double-edged sword. On one side, developing the initiative to work out how to reach for the Frosties, for example, made me feel independent. On the other, learning to internalise all feelings of emotional pain gave me a dysfunctional way of processing life’s challenges.

So while there’s strength in self-reliance, it can lead you to a lonely and bitter place. I’ve learned – better late than never – that it doesn’t make you a burden (or any less of a man) if you need to reach out for help, especially at work. In fact, the ability to collaborate effectively is perhaps the biggest professional advantage you can have.


Connection isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.

It’s often said that humans could theoretically survive alone in the wild by mastering the skills of hunting, shelter-building, and the like. But while our bodies may endure solitude, our minds crave engagement and connection. Human existence isn’t just about physical survival – we are inherently social beings wired to seek out companionship, interaction, and shared experiences.

It’s three decades’ worth of primarily solo experiences – stemming from trust issues, fears of rejection, and an overly independent mindset – for me to realise that true fulfilment comes from the bonds I’ve forged with other people. These days it’s obvious to me that “you get what you give” when it comes to maintaining a relationship with anyone – whether that’s a partner, friend, or colleague. The ability to properly maintain connections by reaching out to others, showing respect and consideration, and keeping in touch, is hard – and occasionally, somewhat embarrassing – to get your head around as a grown adult. But in the end, it really is nice to be nice.


Creativity solves problems.

Throughout my life, I’ve believed that writing is my profound calling and passion. From scribbling in school exercise books as a six-year-old, to winning the odd poetry competition, and setting up a global literary collective which was once on the verge of becoming an enterprise, writing is intrinsic to me as a person – as anyone who knows me will attest. But in a bittersweet way, it’s actually much more than that, as my childhood compulsion to write came from a desire for validation, recognition, and emotional fulfilment I was otherwise missing.

As a skill I’ve spent more than the 10,000 hours you apparently need to master something mastering, writing has been the making of my entire life and career – from the quality content I produce at work, to generally finding creative solutions to problems. So whether it’s journalling, painting, or playing music you throw yourself into, being able to express yourself creatively can provide a safe space to process emotions and overcome difficult challenges.


Boundaries provide freedom.

Boundaries might seem like putting up walls at first glance, which can feel a bit negative. But they provide the freedom to switch gears between work and personal life, maintaining that all-important balance.

Take my work-life balance, for instance. I’ve nailed down specific work hours and made sure to keep them separate from my self-care time and family moments. Sure, there’s some wiggle room, and sometimes I can’t fully unplug at a certain time, but generally, I’ve got the knack for knowing when to hit pause.

And it’s not just about clocking in and out – it’s about being true to myself. I’m Steve in the office and Steve at home, but in each sphere, I get to tap into different parts of who I am so I can be whatever Steve is needed for the situation – whether that’s a laidback father relaxing with his wife and daughters, or an effective problem-solver who’s focused on delivering what’s needed ahead of a big deadline.


Reflection, not perfection.

It took until my mid-thirties to realise that the main things propping me up in life were not all coming from a healthy place. Fears around trust and abandonment, underpinned by an identity crisis, were bundled together by a childhood instinct to survive – sewn up into a presentable package of a passionate, determined, self-motivated man who I was proud of, but needed to understand more.

I’d heard of therapy but didn’t feel I needed it – because I was still that kid who could reach for his own Frosties. Six months of weekly sessions later, it’s shone a light on my true origin story, identified where I need to heal, and taught me that the characteristics you embody when in “survival mode” should really be just a moment in time, rather than a lifelong personality type. It’s also been humbling, which is important for anyone wanting to learn and grow through their experiences rather than believe they “are who they are”. I’ll never know everything there is to know, but I know way more than six months ago, and slightly more than yesterday.